How bad is enterprise software? Really, really bad. But it's not quite that simple.

A new report reveals how much users dislike enterprise software and how the systems hurt users' productivity

How bad is enterprise software? Really, really bad.
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There is a bit of a standing joke in the technology industry that revolves around enterprise software, the software that the largest organizations in the world use to run their core processes. While these solutions are robust and secure, the joke tends to be it's at the expense of the users, who often complain about poor user experience, inflexibility and essentially having to change the way they work within the business to suit the software. While user-centric design might be a huge buzzword in management circles, for those poor users of enterprise software, it seems to be a foreign concept.

+ Also on Network World: Where do mobile apps fit in the world of enterprise software? +

Recently Sapho commissioned a survey from analyst firm Forrester that looked for empirical data around the anecdotal suggestions of widespread disquietude. The survey focused on the fact that employees don't use the multi-billion-dollar software that their employers invest in and they're yearning for a more personalized tool.

In tandem, the study shows that IT isn’t prioritizing these challenges enough and isn’t aware of the difficulties employees face when accessing the data needed to accomplish critical tasks. Essentially the researchers wanted to investigate the suggestion that shadow IT is a direct result of IT’s unwillingness (or inability) to deliver what users need.

And the findings were as dire as some people might suggest. Some highlights:

  • 75% of employees have a hard time accessing information in their enterprise systems and applications
  • 62% of employees must rely on others to access enterprise data, and 57% must rely on others to gain insights from enterprise data
  • 74% of employees would prefer access to data that is personalized and relevant to them, and 69% desire an engaging, mobile-first work experience
  • IT wants to modernize their enterprise application environment by optimizing information delivery across digital channels and aggregating data from different systems for personalized delivery
  • Business leaders believe improved employee productivity and improved business decision making will be a direct result of a simplified approach to enterprise applications

These are worrying statistics, especially given the trillions of dollars that organizations collectively invest in enterprise IT systems. System bloat and sprawling data siloes that are difficult to digest are the norm. But beyond the coarse findings of dissatisfaction, there are some interesting nuggets that (hopefully) enterprise IT vendors and IT practitioners within enterprises will start thinking about.

Users like personalized, push-based systems

Respondents to the study revealed that they are increasingly open to a push-based interaction model in which the most pertinent and relevant updates are fed directly to them through a personalized feed rather than having to search for data to accomplish their jobs. This makes sense. With the amount of data available to employees drastically growing, it’s becoming harder and harder for them to access and digest the data they want and need to complete their work.

As an example of this search for personalization, 30% of respondents want personalized notifications of tasks that need to be completed and another 28% say a personalized feed of individual actions and updates would improve how employees leverage, access and take action on information.

Unsurprisingly, given the way people work in their day-to-day lives, the study also revealed that 69% of employees seek an engaging mobile-first work experience. Unfortunately, these employees are out of luck because 55% of organizations have implemented three mobile apps or fewer.

But it’s not as simple as just mobilizing all of an enterprise's applications. Half of employees simply want the information they need delivered to them in a way that is optimized to the channels they are using. That means employees would be happy if apps and relevant information would be made available on any of the devices or current apps they use, such as to a mobile device or through a channel on Slack, a messaging app for teams.

In a worrying finding for management, focused as it is on efficiency and outcomes, the survey highlighted that 62% of employees delay completing tasks that require logging into multiple systems. Why? Because it simply takes too long. They would prefer to wait until there are multiple tasks that warrant the time spent. Employees are asking for a solution that would aggregate data and tasks from multiple systems so they no longer have to spend time working across systems.

My POV

To many readers, there will be no surprises in here. We’ve long bemoaned the poor state of enterprise IT. But the solutions are not simple, and the enterprise file sharing and sync (EFSS) space is a good example of why that is the case. While most of us who use Dropbox, a primarily consumer-focused file sharing product, absolutely love its simplicity and ease of use, it clearly doesn’t have the breadth of enterprise functionality that large organizations need. Start adding all of that stuff in, and the user experience becomes clogged and things slow down.

Enterprise IT isn’t a binary choice between big/hard and lightweight/easy, rather it is a balancing act between robustness, security and reliability on the one hand, and ease of use, flexibility and agility on the other.

It is an interesting time for enterprise IT, faced as it is with an ever-increasing attack vector and a demand for ever-more friendly tools on the other. This report highlights some of those tensions.

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